Becoming a Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer Job Description

A chief financial officer (CFO) plays a vital role in a company’s overall success. The CFO is responsible for advising board members and the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) about financial transactions that ultimately affect the direction of the company. If you choose to seek employment as a chief financial officer, you need to combine an extensive amount of experience with a strong proven working knowledge of the following:

  • investment strategies
  • taxes
  • business taxes
  • finance operations
  • general business skills
  • computer Information systems
  • modern accounting issues
  • financial accounting

CFO’s are responsible for a number of operations within a company, including, but not limited to:

  • establishing yearly financial ojectives
  • overseeing the budgetary planning
  • developing strategic, tactical and executive initiatives
  • building relationships and engaging with investors, auditors, and key stakeholders

As CFO, one must be certain all financial reporting for the company is complete and accurate, so it pays to have a strong background in a number of accounting career fields. Because of the nature of work that a CFO deals with on a daily basis, a number of interpersonal skills are required, including: strong leadership and analytical skills, the ability to communicate professionally and to work effectively under pressure.

Education Required to Become a CFO

Most people who advance to the level of CFO have a minimum of a master’s degree in accounting, tax and auditing, investing or finance. In addition to the master’s degree and several years of work experience, chief financial officers typically are licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as well. As you earn your degree, some of the courses you can expect to complete include the following:

  • Applied Statistics
  • Auditing
  • Business Taxes
  • Corporate Financial Reporting
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Financial Accounting

Although there are no continued education opportunities once you hit this coveted status, CFO’s are urged to participate in the American Society of Association Executives, the U.S. Chief Finanacial Officers Council and The CFO Alliance to continue to grow professionally.

Career Outlook

Even with an advanced degree, you are not likely to become a CFO early on in your career. Along with a lot of hard work, it usually entails up to 10 years of increasingly responsible managerial positions before you can be considered a viable CFO candidate. Positions you are likely to hold include:

  • Senior Accountant
  • Vice President of Finance
  • President of Finance

Accounting Salary and Career Outlook for Chief Financial Officers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for CFOs was $185,950 as of May 2020, while those above the median salary range earned salaries that exceeded $208,000, making this financial title a highly sought after goal for most accounting professionals. Similar to most all other professions, a CFO’s salary will ultimately depend on experience, industry, education, and company size.

Looking at the BLS, the job growth for all top executives, including CFO’s, is anticipated at five percent annually through the end of this decade. While this growth rate is substantially lower than that of other careers, it should not come as a surprise. Top management positions do not grow at the same rate as other positions because fewer people vacate top management positions to move on to something else. Often times, those who have attained the level of CFO may desire to stay there for the remainder of their careers.

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for chief executives represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data Accessed May 2021.